Several hundred opponents of Arizona’s controversial new immigration law marched across the Brooklyn Bridge and rallied for immigrants’ rights in Lower Manhattan on Thursday.
One group of protesters walked solemnly with a banner painted in blue, yellow and pink that read “Legalización Ahora,” or “Legalization Now.” The youngsters on the bridge, many of them second generation immigrants, led impassioned call-and-response chants. The group from Sistas and Brothas United, a youth leadership organization from the Northwest Bronx, sang out and stamped their feet.
“Say down with Arizona! Boom! Boom! Say up with the immigrants! Yeah! Yeah!” they sang over and over.
In Lower Manhattan's Foley Square, a small contingent of the Arizona law's supporters held up signs with very different messages: “Civil Rights was for Blacks NOT Illegals” and “Illegals Go Home Now!” Many used the term “illegal alien” and said they were sick of their country being hijacked by people who have no right to be here.
“There’s a difference between immigration and sneaking across the border. That’s not immigration. That’s an invasion,”said eighth-generation Manhattanite Andrew Heermans, who blames illegal immigrants for higher crime, overburdened hospitals and fewer jobs for American citizens.
Thirty feet away, college-student Sarah Pomar leaned nonchalantly against a metal police barricade meant to keep the two factions apart. She said immigrant labor is propping up the American economy by filling jobs Americans don’t want.
“There’s that big misconception that immigrants are taking the resources that Americans have,” she said. “Number one, the wages that immigrant people work for are disgustingly low, reprehensibly low. And not only that. Those that happen to have fake social security numbers, they’ll work and they’ll get taxed like every other American, but they’ll never see these benefits.”
A stripped-down version of the Arizona law, SB 1070, went into effect Thursday after a federal judge blocked several provisions in the original. The law's many opponents want to see it repealed and are calling on the federal government to enact comprehensive immigration reform.
“We consider the decision yesterday in Arizona to be a small victory, but the real victory will be when Congress and the president and the Senate come together as they should and create a just immigration reform for everyone in this country,” said Diego Ortiz, from the immigrant resource center Wind of the Spirit.